Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Dessert: Life’s most important meal

Life must include occasional desserts.  Otherwise, eating lacks joy.  I’m not talking the fake sugar or fat-free kind of dessert.  I’m talking dessert that slides smoothly over the tongue and sends joy to one’s taste buds.

Thinking to ward off the food police, I’m not suggesting that every meal end with a sugar treat or that you eat cake and/or pie every day.  I am suggesting that once in a while a small decadent treat lengthens rather than shortening one’s life.  In fact, it is my opinion that not allowing an occasional dessert could cause one to die of food boredom.

At the same time, we singles dare not bake an entire cake or pie and leave it around to temp over indulgence.  That, to me, defeats the purpose.  Dessert should be anticipated and cherished on rare occasions.  Moderation, in my opinion, is the key to everything good in life.

Here is a dessert that I make a couple of times a year when I feel like treating myself.  Each bite brings such joy that eating it seems almost sinful.  I’m betting, however, that God approves.

Anisette Flan

Ingredients

1 Cup half-and-half

1/4 Cup sugar

1 Tablespoon grated orange zest

3 Egg yolks

1 Tablespoon Anisette Liqueur

1/2 Teaspoon vanilla extract

1/8 Teaspoon coconut extract

1 Drop almond extract

Cinnamon

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 325°.  Put half-and-half, sugar, and orange zest into a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan and heat over medium heat, stirring with a wooden spoon, until sugar dissolves (about 5 minutes).

2. Meanwhile, put egg yolks into a small bowl and whisk until thick and frothy.  Gradually add half-and-half mixture to yolks, whisking constantly.  Stir in Anisette, vanilla, and coconut and almond extracts.  Strain through fine sieve into two 6-ounce ramekins.

3. Arrange ramekins in a deep baking pan and add enough boiling water to reach halfway up the sides of the ramekins.  Carefully place pan in oven and bake until flans are just set and centers are slightly soft when you jiggle the ramekins, 35-40 minutes.  Remove flans from water bath, sprinkle with cinnamon and set aside for at least 15 minutes.  Serve warm, at room temperature, or chilled.

Note: Makes two servings.  I like to eat one at room temperature the same evening I make them and chill the second for the next evening.  Or, if you have a special friend you would like to give a nice treat, make a home delivery to that person around dinnertime.  Better yet, invite that person over for dinner when you make this delightful dessert.

Note 2: Can be made with other flavors of liqueur for a different taste and lemon zest also works fine.

Use tip: Store the egg whites in the refrigerator until the following morning, then make a healthy veggie omelet for breakfast or Sunday brunch.  Just chop and sauté some veggies such as bell pepper, onion, mushrooms and or tomato and pour slightly beat egg whites over all.  Cook until set and sprinkle with a little cheese before serving.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Fried apples and grandkids

Returning from spending two days with grandkids, I found near-empty refrigerator and pantry.  I knew what to expect; planned to stop for groceries on the way home, but opted to drive straight through, bypassing all of the great super markets located within the 150 mile stretch between Boulder and Haxtun, the small Colorado town where I reside.

The visit with grandkids opened on Wednesday, Dec. 22 when I retrieved granddaughter Shannon from her Southwest Airline flight at Denver International Airport.  Shannon’s flights never occur without incident and this one delivered as promised.  She arrived at 8:10 a.m., her flight right on time.  Her luggage came through the carousal at approximately 9:30 a.m., having taken a later flight due to the holiday crowds.

Not ones to let a good mishap pass us by, Shannon and I sat near the carousal watching as child after child walked slowly past Brieanna my eight-pound wonder Poodle with longing etched on each face.  “Does your dog bite?”  Each posed the question with timid hope.

“Not at all,” Shannon told them, “She loves a good soft petting if you would like.”

The small frowns turned into smiles while Brieanna rolled over to offer up her belly for rub after rub.”

When she began to want play more than pets, I told the happy kids she had probably gotten her fill of petting and they politely said, ‘thanks,” and walked away to enjoy Christmas with the faint memory of puppy petting.  Of course, this puppy is now nearing seven years old, but kids only see small, not age, when it comes to a dog.

Luggage retrieved and loaded following our mile-long trek to the far-reaches of the cheap parking, Shannon and I headed for Boulder, where we ate lunch at a Red Lobster and then settled in for a day of shopping.  Shannon makes shopping fun even for those of us who generally only do the walk-in, get-what-you-need, walkout kind.  My beautiful granddaughter, generally a loving, caring registered nurse, is a shoe czar.  She shows no fear, going from rhinestone-studded flip-flops to four-inch killer heels in a flash of an isle.  At five-foot-ten inches, Shannon wears these needlepoint heels without fear, adding to her elegant stature and turning heads wherever she goes.

Late that night, checked into our room, we awaited the arrival of Shannon’s brother and sister, Mitchell and Sierra, and Mitchell’s bride, Kim.  The four piled into the room at around 11 a.m., adding four more pieces of luggage to the two Shannon and I arrived with, two snowboards, an air mattress and arms of Christmas gifts that soon became gifts, wrapping paper and boxes.  The air mattress took up any spare space on the floor and after a good many stories and laughs, we settled down to share snores and the breathing of the sleeping.  It felt just like a wonderful slumber party that only the young enjoy, and grandma enjoyed it tremendously.

The next morning, the four grandkids headed for the slopes and grandma headed home where the next morning she found a short food supply, a few eggs, a couple of apples and no bread, when it came time to fix breakfast.  Time to make do with scrambled eggs and apple, but not just any old apple.  I wanted something hot and yummy.  It was, after all, Christmas Eve morning.

I took the apple; in this case, a nice Gala but it could be any kind (Golden Delicious work nicely).  I cored and sliced it and tossed the thick sections into a small skillet along with a tablespoon of melted butter.  On top, I sprinkled a dash of sea salt, a small amount of dried thyme (I suppose fresh thyme would work better, but I had none.) and teaspoon or so of sugar.  I let the apple slices fry in the butter without stirring for about 4-5 minutes then turned them before allowing them to fry another 4-5 minutes.  I then removed the fried apple slices to a warmed plate and scrambled an egg in the juices left in the skillet.

The apple slices added a gentle sweet yet tart crunch along side the softer mellow egg.  A satisfying way to start a great day of contemplating my wonderful grandmotherly memories.  Wonderful!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Soup de jour

Winter in Colorado cries for soup.  In the fall, knowing what is to come, I purchase the wonderful winter squash that becomes plentiful that time of year.  A little seasonal effort provides the base for one of my favorite hearty soups when the snow covers the fall leaves and a winter chill fills the air.

To prepare the squash, peel, removed the seeds and cut into 1- to 2-inch chucks.  Place in a roasting pan, coat with a small amount of oil and roast for 1 hour in a 375° oven.  Remove and run through a food mill to puree.  I freeze the pureed squash in 9.5-ounce freezer containers and label.  Then when the snow flies, I pull out of container of squash and make this wonderful soup.  Generally I can make two meals out of a batch served alongside a salad.



Squash Soup

Ingredients

1 Tablespoon canola oil

1 Small onion, chopped

1 Small carrot, peeled and chopped

1 Stalk of celery, chopped

1/3 Cup white wine

1 14.25-Ounce can low-sodium chicken broth

2 Sprigs flat-leaf parsley

1 Sprig fresh thyme

1 Teaspoon whole peppercorns

1 Small bay leaf

1 9.5-Ounce container of frozen butternut or Kabocha squash puree, thawed

Yogurt or sour cream and croutons for garnish (optional)



Directions:

1.     Heat oil in 2-quart saucepan over medium heat.

2.     Add onion and sauté 1-2 minutes.

3.     Add carrot and celery and sauté 1-2 minutes longer.

4.     Add wine, broth, peppercorns and herbs to pan and bring to boil, lower heat and simmer 25-30 minutes.

5.     Add thawed squash and continue simmering another 30-40 minutes over low heat.  Make sure soup does not scorch.

6.     Serve with croutons and yogurt or sour cream



Ingredient note:  If you do not freeze your own squash, most stores carry frozen butternut squash in 10-ounce packages.  If you don’t have fresh herbs, dry does work.





Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Why this blog?

This blog is for those who live alone and those who find passion in food despite that obstacle.  The idea is to talk about the preparing to the cooking to the eating and all the experiments and experiences along the way.

Whether eating alone or with someone, food fully enjoyed requires time to experience the cornucopia of tantalizing flavors found in a well-prepared recipe that uses the highest quality and freshest ingredients available.

The idea for this blog began nearly 30 years ago when I found myself in a situation of unintended singleness.  Us “girls” who grew up in the 1950's Midwest anticipated a lifetime of marriage filled with family and hours of preparing meals.  My own cooking skills developed from age nine when my parents separated and my mother went to work.  I, being the only girl out of five siblings, became the keeper of the house, which included cooking meals.

When I married at age 24, two children came with the proposal.  I love them as if they came from my own womb.  I also married my husband's large family and his many friends.  Lonnie, now deceased, loved people and most weekends our home filled with visitors.  That meant cooking for a crowd many weekends.

When the marriage ended in 1981, I loaded my 1978 Ford Mustang hatchback with a few personal items, my clothes, a coffee pot and one cup.  I drank my coffee black and I resolved to eat every meal out.  After a few years, however, I found that I really missed my own cooking.  The challenge then became cooking for one person rather than a crowd.  Before I learned, however, the resulting leftovers often became green fungus in the refrigerator.

I tried freezing the extras, but discovered that a frozen dinner is a frozen dinner.  Period.  No matter how you package it or what you call it.  (There are some soups and casseroles that freeze well and I will pass along a few of those on this blog for those days lacking in either time or energy.  Even those of us who love to cook have our moments.

Once I decided to learn to cook for one, I started looking at recipes in a different way.  Most recipes serve four, so simply dividing the ingredients by four and making one serving should work?  Or, at least that is what I thought.  I found division does worked for some recipes; for others, not so well.  Thus began the process of writing recipes and learning along the way.  The recipes and lessons I continue to learn, I pass along to you through this blog and I hope others share their recipes and tips on cooking for one as well.

Single living comes with challenges beyond food, however, so this blog also goes beyond food.  I’ll pass along the things I have learned in other areas of the single life and hope you all will too.